Saturday, June 25, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Website!!

Hello Everyone!

Thanks to my wonderful husband, who purchased for me as a Christmas Gift!
I have finally finished moving all my old posts and recipes from this blogspot site over to the new one:

Please bookmark the new page, and come check out my latest post featuring my secret recipe for Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes or my recipe for Chicken Katsu and Japanese Curry.  

You can also go directly to my new recipe index page.

See you all on the new site!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy Rustic (No-Knead) Bread

Did I ever mention my husband bought me a KitchenAid Stand Mixer as a surprise gift a few years ago?  He thought I would like it, since I bake so much.  His heart was in the right place, but just like I shouldn't be picking out tech gadgets for him, he probably shouldn't have picked out a baking appliance for me.

That particular stand mixer was a professional edition, and very heavy.  Also, it was a Bowl-Lift design (rather than the Tilt-Head model I actually wanted.)  Nevertheless, I was excited to try it out in the beginning, since it came with a dough hook...

Sadly, I ended up HATING that stand mixer.  It was too heavy, very cumbersome to use, and that Bowl-Lift design really irritated me.  It ended up becoming a very large dust-covered paperweight in the corner of my kitchen before I ended up finding a new home for it.  But I did miss the dough hook... kneading dough (to produce gluten, essential for proper bread texture) is not a very fun activity for me.

A few nights ago, I was watching my favorite Food Network show, "Good Eats," and Alton Brown was demonstrating a very simple method for making wonderful bread, without any kneading at all!  You simple let time produce the gluten for you, instead of the mechanical kneading that I can no longer do without a dough hook/stand mixer!  Alton recommended a 19 hour dough rest, but I let my dough rest for double that amount of time - I got really busy the next day and forgot about the dough - Whoops!  But it still turned out great:

No Knead Bread:
17.5 oz. bread flour (about 3 to 3 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 c. water
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
cornmeal and flour for dusting

1.  Mix the flour, water, salt, and yeast in a bowl to combine.

2.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter top at room temperature from anywhere between 19 to 43 hours.  The dough will end up with bubbles in it and look spongy.

3.  A few hours before you are ready to bake, turn the dough out onto the counter and turn it over a few times.  Loosely cover with the plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

4.  Shape the dough into a ball, and allow it to rest on a piece of parchment with cornmeal sprinkled underneath (to keep it from sticking).  Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the surface of the ball, and loosely cover with the plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise for another 2-3 hours until doubled.

5.  In the last 30 minutes of allowing the dough to rise, preheat a cast iron dutch oven in a 450 degree oven.

6.  When the dough is ready to bake, plop the dough ball into the cast iron dutch oven, and cover with the lid.  Allow to bake for 30 minutes.

7.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid, and continue to bake another 15 minutes.

8.  Remove from the oven, and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Costa Rican Fried Rice: Gallo Pinto

When I lived in Costa Rica for the summer, many years ago, one thing you could always count on was being served some form of black beans and rice at EVERY meal.  I was staying the La Selva Biological Research Station in the heart of the rain forest, and food was served cafeteria style in a screened-in dining hall across the river from the laboratories and dorm style accommodations.  You would line up with your plate in hand, and various cafeteria workers would portion out your food for you on your plate as you moved through the line - and they arbitrarily decided how much food you "needed" (I was often given much smaller portions than my male counterparts).

We would usually have black beans and rice for dinner, and then the next morning, Gallo Pinto for breakfast, served along side with sweet fried plantains.  (Yum!)  Gallo Pinto is the Costa Rican equivalent of "fried rice" - basically, leftover rice and beans from the night before, fried up together in a skillet.  Most people would shake a generous amount of Lizano Sauce onto their Gallo Pinto to add a little bit of spicy flavor.  At the end of my 3 month stay there, I became really sick of eating Gallo Pinto.  But almost 15 years later... I really wanted to have it again.  My Gallo Pinto turned out much lighter in color than traditional Gallo Pinto (the black color from the leftover cooked black beans gives the rice a much darker appearance), but the taste was just as I remembered.

Gallo Pinto:
1 1/2 c. uncooked long grain rice
15 oz. can cooked black beans
1 bell pepper
1 onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried cilantro or 1 T. fresh chopped cilantro
1 T. canola oil

1.  Cook the rice in a rice cooker, or according to package directions.  Rinse and drain the black beans.

2.  Chop the onion and bell pepper.

3.  Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skilled, and saute the onion and bell pepper with about half the salt until light and golden brown.

4.  Add the rice and beans.  Season with the remaining salt, coriander, and cilantro.

5.  Continue to saute for another 5 minutes.  Taste and correct seasonings.

6.  Serve with a side of sausage or fried bananas, and a little hot sauce on the side.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hawaiian Butter Mochi

Mochi is probably one of my most favorite things to eat.  I prefer my mochi plain and fried with just a little bit of soy sauce.  Yum!  But when it comes to dessert mochi... I've never really been a fan of azuki (red) bean filled mochi.  It's ok... but I like the taste and texture of the mochi itself, and to me, the red bean just gets in the way.

Someone mentioned Hawaiian Butter Mochi to me a few weeks ago.  I've never had it before, but it sounded delicious.  I still had some fresh grated coconut leftover from a coconut cake that I made... so I thought it would be a perfect time to try the recipe out.

The recipe I found called for evaporated milk + water... I had some in the pantry, so I used it.  But - evaporated milk is just shelf-stable concentrated (canned) milk.  Instead of using evaporated milk + water, you could substitute with an equal volume (about 2 cups) of regular milk.  Mochiko (sweet rice flour, a.k.a. glutinous rice flour) can be found on the international food aisle of most regular grocery stores, or in a Japanese or Asian market. I always buy the Koda Farms brand, with the blue star on the box.

Hawaiian Butter Mochi:
1 lb. box Mochiko (sweet rice flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 c. freshly grated coconut

1.  Melt the butter in the microwave.

2.  Mix the melted butter with the sugar and salt.

3.  Add the vanilla, and one egg at a time.

4.  Mix the coconut milk, evaporated milk, and water into the sugar mixture.

5.  Whisk the mochiko with the baking powder to sift.

6.  Pour the wet ingredients into the mochiko mixture and whisk until smooth.

7.  Pour the batter into a greased foil lined 9 X 13 inch baking dish.

8.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  Then, sprinkle the top with the grated coconut, and bake for 10 more minutes.

9.  Remove and cool.  Cut the butter mochi into squares when cool.

Place the squares in cupcake liners on a platter to serve.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Banh Bo Nuong (Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake)

Who knew that Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake (Banh Bo Nuong) would end up being one of the most difficult cakes I've ever tried to make?  My friend gave me a delicious homemade Banh Bo Nuong around Christmas time, and I've been trying to duplicate it ever since.  The more I failed, the more determined I was to get it right.

My first (unsuccessful) attempt used this recipe I found on a blog - I followed the instructions to the letter (used the right kind of baking powder, didn't overbeat the eggs, etc.) - but I ended up with a deflated, mushy, compact gelatinous brick.  It also wasn't sweet enough - blech! - the results went into the trash.  

For attempt #2, I thought, "Maybe the cake doesn't have enough gluten to provide structural support?"  So I substitute cake flour for half of the tapioca flour, increased the sugar, and ended up with something that tasted more like a Pandan pound cake - good, but no honeycombs - and it definitely wasn't Banh Bo Nuong.  

Attempt #3 utilized a combination of tapioca flour, rice flour, and a small amount of cake flour - I was hoping the rice flour would give a chewier texture and also help with the structure of the cake to prevent it from collapsing.  Nope, wrong again!  Cake #3 was good - but still was nothing more than a Pandan pound cake, and still did not resemble Banh Bo Nuong.

Attempt #4 finally gave me results worth posting.  I decreased the amount of coconut cream, increased the sugar, went back to all tapioca flour... plus I increased the oven heat, and implemented chiffon cake strategy when cooling the cake.  Success!  Here is what I learned:

There are several steps that must be strictly adhered to when making this cake:  First, use only SINGLE-acting baking powder.  Most American markets stock only DOUBLE-acting baking powder - which is great for banana bread - but will ruin your honeycomb cake.  You can find little pink packets of Alsa brand (single-acting) baking powder at Asian markets. Or, make your own baking powder by combining cream of tartar and baking soda in a 2:1 ratio.  My successful cakes #4 and #5 both used cream of tartar + baking soda, so I know that it works.

Second, make sure you preheat your cake pan, greasing only the bottom.  Leave the cake pan sides un-greased, to give the cake something to cling to for support.  Angel food cake pans are great for this cake, as the center tube will give added support.  If your cake lacks the honeycombs, it could be that your oven is not hot enough, or could be out of calibration - experiment with baking at 10 degree hotter temperatures until it works.  Once baked, hang the cake upside-down on a rack to cool, if possible.  This will help reduce the likelihood of your cake collapsing when cooling. 

Third, be careful not to beat any air into your batter.  The trapped air will expand in the oven, causing the cake to rise... and the more air that is incorporated, the more the cake will deflate as it cools.  Stir your ingredients slowly - resist the urge to use a beating or whipping motions.

Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing - use either. You can find tapioca flour at an Asian market, or at a "Whole Foods" type of health food market.  I bought my latest batch of tapioca starch at Sprouts Market, Bob's Red Mill brand.  Coconut cream is thick coconut milk.  You can sometimes find coconut cream for sale in cans, like I did.  Or, buy coconut milk, and do not shake or agitate - open the can, and use the thick layer of cream that has floated to the top of the can.

Banh Bo Nuong:
1/2 c. coconut cream
1 1/4 c. sugar
6 eggs
1 1/4 c. tapioca starch
2 1/2 tsp. single acting baking powder (make your own with 1 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar + 3/4 tsp. baking soda)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 - 1 tsp pandan extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat a convection oven to 360 degrees (375 degrees in a regular oven).  Grease the bottom (not the sides) of an angel food cake pan with canola oil, and allow the pan to preheat inside the oven.  (You want the pan to be nice and hot when you add the cake batter.)

2.  Sift the tapioca starch, and baking powder.  Do not use double acting baking powder, or this recipe will fail.

3.  In a separate container, stir the eggs until homogenized - you want to avoid beating any air into the eggs.

4.  Mix the coconut cream, sugar, pandan, and vanilla extracts.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.

5.  Stir the eggs into the coconut milk syrup.  Do not beat or overly agitate the mixture.

6.  Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients, and mix to combine.  Stop mixing when you still have some lumps - over mixing will ruin this cake.

7.  Pour the batter through a sieve, and using the back of a rubber or silicone spatula, push all of the batter through.  This step will take care of all the lumps, allowing a nice smooth batter, without over mixing.  Sieve the batter 2 more times to ensure a perfectly smooth batter.

8.  Pour the batter into the hot cake pan, and bake for 10 minutes at 360 degrees in a convection oven  (375 degrees in a normal oven).  After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 305 degrees, and continue baking for 25-30 more minutes.  Test with a wooden toothpick - when the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready.

9.  Remove the cake from the oven, and invert onto a wire rack.  Allow to hang upside down to cool for at least 90 minutes.

10.  Remove the cake from the pan when cool, and serve.

Note:  You can also make a round version of this cake by baking in a cast iron dutch oven (oil only the bottom of the pan), at 365 degrees in a convection oven for 10 minutes (or 375 degrees in a regular oven), then another 30-35 minutes at 305 degrees.  Hang upside down for several hours to cool.